Santa Clarita Valley’s civilian veteran population exceeds 10,000, according to recent Census data. Another report reveals the area is home to a disproportionally high number of veterans — more than 700 — from Iraq and Afghanistan. It has been well documented that many of them return to poor living conditions due to financial hardships, while others deal with new disabilities and no means to modify their homes.
This data prompted Habitat for Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valleys (SF/SCV) to work with community and business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and others to launch “SCV Homes for Heroes.”
The program, which will establish Santa Clarita Valley as a leading community for civilian veterans and their families, will build on Habitat’s model of providing affordable housing and connecting families to services that promote education and self-sufficiency, according to Donna Deutchman, CEO and executive director of Habitat for Humanity SF/SCV.
“The focus of SCV Homes for Heroes will be on ensuring veterans are supported through home modifications, education, and supportive services that will help prevent them from common house-related problems that civilian veterans face,” she says.
KHTS AM radio owners Carl Goldman and Jeri Seratti Goldman head the SCV Homes for Heroes advisory board.
“In addition to post-war injuries, veterans returning to civilian life face high rates of unemployment and a depressed housing market,” Carl Goldman said.
He cited a report stating 80,000 veterans who served after 9/11 are paying more than 50% of their income for housing, leaving little flexible income for repairs or modifications to their homes. “After serving our country, they should not be faced with such hardships. They need and deserve our help.”
The SCV Homes for Heroes’ three-phase program includes:
·A Brush With Kindness — Sponsored by Southern California Gas Company, this program brings together donated materials, volunteers, and resources to help veterans who need repairs or modifications on their existing homes.
·Neighborhood Revitalization — Working with partners and the City of Santa Clarita, this phase will focus on renovating foreclosed properties in redevelopment areas selected by the city for veteran families to purchase. Veterans will work alongside volunteers and builders to rehab their home as well as take advantage of financial and other educational workshops. Entire neighborhoods will be transformed through additional Brush With Kindness efforts.
·Veteran “Enriched” Neighborhood — This phase, which will launch at a later date, will offer life skills to veterans and their families to become self-sufficient. The Enriched Neighborhood model brings social and educational services into a neighborhood. The goal is to build a veteran-specific community in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Goldman said SCV Homes for Heroes is generating strong interest, with several civic, business and community leaders offering to lend their support by serving on its advisory board. Board members include a cross section of leadership in Santa Clarita. To see a complete list of Advisory Board members visit www.habitatscv.org.
“We’ve been talking to a lot of people about the program and the support has been overwhelming — everyone wants to know what they can do to help,” he adds, noting planned activities include fundraising and seeking contributors from the community.
This Santa Clarita project is being sponsored the Southern California Gas Company and KHTS AM-1220.
The Gas Company has been a past sponsor of Habitat’s Brush with Kindness program, including offering employee volunteers and funding to help a local Saugus family rebuild their lives following the October 2007 wildfires.
Mike Mizrahi, regional affairs manager for the utility, says, “SCV Homes for Heroes is unique in that it brings together many different entities with the goal of helping local veterans. We’re thrilled to participate in a program that helps them get their lives back after serving our country. ”
For more information about SCV Homes for Heroes, go to www.HabitatSCV.org or call (818) 884-8808.